Expat Relocation to Switzerland: 10 things to pack

Expat Relocation to Switzerland: 10 things to pack

What you need to know before your expat relocation / move to Switzerland with your family and children.

You know the whirlwind of chaos that is a move? Double it for an international expat relocation! We arrived with the very un-useful: half used bottles of cleaner; gardening things (no garden!); three bookcases of books and missed the useful: cake tins; muffin trays; picture frames; and hoover!

Here is my list, coming from the UK to Switzerland, of things I, with all my heart, would recommend you pack for a smoother start for you and your family when you embark on an expat relocation!

  1. Bed linen. 
    a) it is super expensive here: the linen and the actual bedding. I first saw the price of a Duvet/quilt in a sale and Facebooked it as I thought it was so funny. This includes children’s bedding. Think ahead.
    b) Sizes are different. Don’t ask me how but the pillows here are really not “our” pillows.
  2. Kitchen gear.
    If you love it, bring it! Silicone bakeware is only just getting here, so if in doubt, pack it! But cupboard space is at a premium in most kitchens.
  3. Kitchen equipment.
    Now I would like to add one word of warning here……….kitchen counter top space, especially in the “reasonably price” end of the market, will make you cry. We ended up dumping our microwave for many reasons but one of them was that we wanted 1/3 of the counter top space back. Yes, really.So if you love your gadgets, do buy ahead (and change the plugs when you get here) but remember is that they will probably need to live in a cupboard and be hauled out on demand. Unless you like chopping vegetables on your oven top.
    If you are coming from the United States you have to do all kinda crazy things to get the voltage to work. Which from what I can tell requires a giant magic brick. As you can tell, I am totally an expert on this!!! So only bring it if you totally totally love it.
  4. English books: especially for the children.
    Foreign language books (i.e English) are at a premium here. Unless you fancy paying £20 a book, bring them! Your local library will have a selection, but it will be only a few crates. The smaller the town, the smaller the selection. As an expat though, you will get into book swapping with other expat mums which does really help.
  5. Kindle
    Did I say books are expensive? You can use your kindle and keep your motherland’s amazon account. Buy books at a click of a button and you don’t have to drag them up the stairs when you move (you know how heavy books are, right?)
  6. Your Children’s things
    You are probably much less sentimental than your children. Their identity is formed by their safe bedroom and their toys. It’s all they have and it means the world to them. As much as you possibly can, involve them, respect their wishes and pack as much of their things as you can. If you are arriving ahead of your shipping container or truck, pack a LARGE suitcase with things that will make them feel at home. Create a safe, personal space for them as soon as you can. This will help the settling process. Check out the link at the bottom of this post for a better understanding of expat relocation and children.
  7. Netflix
    I know it doesn’t fit in the luggage …… but it saves on packing DVDs! Your Netflix account will work in Switzerland, but it will show the Swiss content which can be more limited. There is still plenty of English films and shows to choose from though. Most cable companies (Swiss Com etc…) will sell you a cable package which includes the basic UK freeview selection but you may simply be a more binge watching/on demand kinda family. So be assured …. it works. Bring a tiny Apple TV with you, and Netflix will go straight to your main TV (after you have your internet set up!).
  8. Shoes and clothes.
    Be prepared as it is very expensive here. Children’s shoes are especially comical in pricing and those are the ones you will be buying the most!If you are sporty, I have also found that sports clothes are a little on the high side. I recently got into running and waited until a London trip to get what I needed! Snow jackets and boots? Get them now!
  9. Balcony and Garden
    If you know you are moving to a place with a balcony, why not pick up a tiny bistro table to balance your coffee on and a few chairs? It will save so much hassle when you arrive.
  10. Furniture
    Do you have the space? If you do, bring it. Unless you fancy refurnishing the house from Ikea and paying over 100CHF for delivery, most furniture prices will make your eyes water. There are, to be fair, good second hand shops here that can help you out with fairly decent pieces of furniture, so all is not lost!

I recommend this article on moving/ relocation and young children: http://psychcentral.com/lib/moving-and-young-children/


Are there anymore things that you can think of? What have I missed that is essential for an expat relocation to be successful in Switzerland? What is super expensive in Switzerland that it is better to bring? What should be left behind?

↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ Scroll down and let me know in the comments below!  ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ 


Related articles:
What happens when you arrive? Expat’s guide to unpacking!

I also a regular column called Expat Corner for Mothering Matters, a Parenting Magazine for English Speakers in Switzerland and wrote this for Hello Switzerland: – Relocating with children and this for Geneva Diaries: – “Help your expat kids cope”.

Would you like exclusive access to a library full of free resources to help reduce the stress of parenting and family life?
Help to untangle your parenting!

Click below to enter the library! Listen to an interview with Parenting expert Dr. Jack Pransky, read your free Ebook on expat children and behavioural challenges and a bank of parenting articles! Full access!


  1. Great list!
    When I moved to the USA, I ran into the same challenge in terms of bedding. I had no idea how large queen or king were 😉

    I’m surprised you’re not talking about cooking / baking supplies. All the yummy, familiar things you can’t buy here, or if you can, prices knock you out.

    • I didn’t really bake in England as I would pop to the shops for Christmas puds, mince pies, birthday cakes and other once-a-year yummies. When I realised that wasn’t possible here, I needed cake tins, muffin trays, cooling racks and more! That was an expensive mistake!

  2. I love this! We moved from the USA to London to Zurich and brought all our kitchen appliances. I have never used them due to the difference in voltage and irritating magic brick! Who knew you can stir batters and mixes by hand? And we bought a food processor from coop for making almond butter. I completely agree on bringing all kitchen essentials, including the cake and cupcake carrier. I can’t tell you how many times my friends were sharing one cupcake carrier.

    I thought the craziest thing about moving to Switzerland was there were no lights in our flat! We had to buy 9 lights at Ikea…

    • I remember the lights too! I thought the apartment had been robbed! For months we had no overhead lights because we were too scared to wire them in ourselves (bare electric wires dangling from ceiling! ekk!) and too poor, after moving, to hire an electrician!

  3. Yes, a HUGE issue is the microwave vs. counterspace debate. I think we only use it now to quickly heat the girls snuggly animals with the warming seeds inside. The time may come that we make the decision to chuck it all together and test the microwave-free kitchen.

    • The only thing I miss about the Microwave is the fast Baked Potatoes and the once a year ritual of the English Christmas Pudding!

  4. We brought two magic bricks with us: one for my Dyson vacuum and another for my KitchenAid mixer. Everything else we’ve decided we don’t need or bought here. The transformer/converter for my vacuum regularly trips the breaker, which just supports my attempts to avoid housework 😉

    Somehow in our move, whether in the packing, storage, or shipping we don’t know, most of my baking supplies disappeared. I’ve only bought the bare necessities here because it’s all so expensive!

    • Isn’t it amazing the strange things that disappear in a move? Little moving Elves! Sorry about your baking supplies!!!


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